Duterte meets US Pacific Command chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 23 2017 05:28 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday met with the chief of the United States military’s Pacific Command in Malacañang, with discussions revolving around regional security, particularly the crisis in the Korean Peninsula. 

Duterte received US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris Jr. at the Palace Wednesday afternoon with several cabinet members at hand, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano. 

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim and other US officials were also present at the meeting. 

Duterte and Harris discussed North Korea's nuclear threat, with the President again underscoring China's role in ending the crisis, the latter being North Korea's largest trading partner.

China remains North Korea's most important ally and trading partner, despite Beijing's anger at Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs.

China has signed up for tough United Nations sanctions that were agreed earlier this month and says it is committed to enforcing them.

Yet Beijing has been upset by complaints from Washington and Tokyo that it is not doing enough to rein in North Korea. The foreign ministry last month called for an end to what it termed the "China responsibility theory."

China also believes its influence over North Korea, whose relationship China used to describe as "close as lips and teeth," is limited.

Harris had just come from South Korea to observe annual joint military drills with the South Korean military, which the North called a step towards nuclear conflict masterminded by "war maniacs."

The United States and South Korea began the long-planned exercises on Monday, called the Ulchi Freedom Guardian, which the allies have said are purely defensive.

The drills involve tens of thousands of troops as well as computer simulations designed to prepare for war with a nuclear-capable North Korea.

The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with the North because their conflict from 1950 to 1953 ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The meeting between Duterte and Harris also happened amid renewed calls for Manila to assert its claims over South China Sea after Chinese ships were sighted in a geological feature near the Philippine Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island).

The US has repeatedly challenged China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea, conducting freedom of navigation operations near Beijing’s man-made islands in the Spratlys.

The US has remained the Philippines' strongest defense ally despite the President's earlier tirades against Washington over criticism of his drug war. 

The Americans have provided technical and hardware support for the Philippines' continuing campaign against Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City.

 --reports from Reuters and Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News